The Military in Fiction
Phil Carter‘s commenters are having great fun with his critique of Lifetime’s “Army Wives” for “easy caricatures and the easy plot formulas” which “fails to convey the depth and complexity underlying a number of important military issues.” They rightly note that very few movies and television shows about anything are accurate and complex because their interest is in entertaining viewers rather than informing them.
Phil counters that “sometimes fiction is the best vehicle for telling the larger truths about a subject,” listing “Three Kings” and “Catch-22” as examples. That’s also true, although those cases are rare, indeed, compared to the totally worthless portals of military life in fiction (cf “Sgt. Bilko,” “McHale’s Navy,” “I Dream of Genie,” etc.).
My guess is Phil has the same annoying affliction that I have: The inability to suspend disbelief when watching movies about things that we know something about. I can’t count the number of times every week when I make some point about why some plot twist doesn’t make sense to have my unsympathetic wife exclaim, “It’s a movie!” or “It’s a TV show!”
I’m perfectly willing to watch fantasy entertainment like science fiction adventure shows, superhero adventures, or James Bond flicks and accept the far-fetched premises. (Sun’s yellow rays make you fly? A radioactive spider, huh? Fine.) Even there, though, I get annoyed when those premises aren’t adhered to or the characters make inexplicable decisions simply to move the plot along. (Why is the captain taking the entire command staff down to explore that dangerous planet? Just shoot him already! Why can’t the female lead ever just stay in the damn car like she’s told?)
Likewise, I can watch war movies and accept that John Wayne is pretty near invincible or that fighter jocks are dangling their air masks because, otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to see their facial expressions. I never understand, though, why they can’t get the haircuts and uniforms right.